The recent announcement by Gov. Gina Raimondo that Air Canada will begin round trip service from Providence to Toronto -- the latest in a flurry of new economic developments in Rhode Island -- was an exciting one to witness. We were at T.F. Green to greet Air Canada dignitaries and officially welcome them to the nation's premier medium-sized airport. It's the kind of work we have been doing for nearly a century. Whether we are advocating for entrepreneurs or making business to business connections among our members, we have an expansive portfolio or activities.
Back in the late 1920s, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce worked with the state legislature to establish an airport in Rhode Island because we recognized early on that air transportation was essential to our community’s long-term economic vitality—earning Providence the moniker of the “Southern Gateway to New England.” And we’ve never stopped advocating for the continued expansion of what is now T.F. Green Airport to provide greater amenities with each passing year. Fast-forward to present day, and we now have a bustling transportation hub that will only continue to grow and benefit Rhode Island’s thriving business community. Passenger travel in and out of Providence grew by 7.8 percent in 2017 over the prior year.
Already the T.F. Green Airport offers nonstop trips to 34 cities. There are now year-round, nonstop flights to Europe, and they are among the cheapest trans-Atlantic flights offered nationwide. Multiple carriers are competing to offer flights from T.F. Green, and airfare prices have dropped as a result. In the past year alone, four new airlines have been introduced to the Warwick hub, including Norwegian Air. And just a few short weeks ago, a new 8,700-foot runway expansion was completed. This has increased service opportunities to accommodate all types of aircraft and has made destinations that were once inaccessible a travel reality.
Having these services has made Rhode Island all the more prominent as an epicenter of commercial growth, and local businesses are reaping the benefits. As I’ve often said, Rhode Island’s accessibility is one of its best-kept secrets. By expanding T.F. Green, we’re trying to let the greater business community in on something we’ve known for years.
Rhode Island is at the crossroads of East Coast industry—just consider the density of people and businesses within a two-hour drive. It is perfectly positioned among one of the wealthiest pockets in the country. Even better, congestion is minimal, and the price point cannot be beat. An impressive talent pool has recognized all the possibilities of our intermodal transportation options, and they understand how important this accessibility is. In developing T.F. Green, we are creating opportunities to take our ever-expanding business community beyond the East Coast—not just across the country but across continents as well.
Because of this expansion, small businesses in particular now have the ability to extend their operations into markets that were once cost-prohibitive. By expanding opportunities for Rhode Island businesses, we are investing in their growth—and making Rhode Island all the more appealing for young entrepreneurs as they look to our state as a place to grow their own ventures.
These developments have not gone unnoticed by those beyond Rhode Island’s borders. T.F. Green Airport has been ranked among the best midsize airports in the country for its convenience, and it was recently included among Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice list of the top 10 airports in the United States. We’ve won back several carriers that had departed from the marketplace years ago. We’re creating a center of transport that serves a wide range of individuals who see the benefits of the expanded hub, whether they’re businesses, tourists or vacationers. Not only has the newly expanded T.F. Green Airport made the world a smaller place, but it’s also made Rhode Island a more desirable one.
Here at the Chamber, connectivity is key. By continually improving T.F. Green Airport, we’re taking our business community to a whole new level of possibilities.